HC slams railways for ‘inhuman’ demolition drive

New Delhi : Slamming the railways for its “inhuman” demolition drive in the capital, the Delhi High Court on Monday issued notice to it, police and city government and directed them to make a coordinated action plan for rehabilitation of the displaced residents.

A bench headed by Justice S. Murlidhar sought response from Indian railways, police and Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) by December 16 while hearing a plea filed by Congress leader Ajay Maken seeking direction for authorities to ensure that all displaced persons are immediately rehabilitated in temporary relief camps and shelter homes.

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“The court cannot help observe that the action taken has perhaps exposed the displaced persons to a graver risk particularly concerning that it has taken place in the peak of winter season. In fact, there has been an unfortunate demise of one child,” said the court.

The bench asked the railways whether a survey was done and proper rehabilitation arrangements were made before the demolition drive in Shakur Basti area of west Delhi. The counsel for railway was unable to give a reply to the court’s query.

Observing that the railways was in a hurry to demolish the shanties in Shakur Basti, the bench asked: “What was the tearing hurry to demolish Shakur Basti JJ cluster in December?”

“Act immediately to ensure that minimum need of decent shelter is provided to the homeless displaced population at Shakur Basti,” the bench asked railways and Delhi government.

It also sought details of the Shakur Basti residents and asked all agencies to distribute blankets, food and medicines.

“What is not in dispute that in the demolition drive that commenced on December 12 at least 1,600 dwellings in Shakur Basti (West) Delhi near Madipur Metro Station were demolished. It is also not in dispute that nearly 5,000 people have been rendered homeless and continue to remain on the site, facing extreme cold without any roof over their heads, and having lost their belongings. This is dire circumstance in which the life and liberty of the homeless residents of Shakur Basti are in grave danger,” the court said.

More than 500 hutments were demolished by railways authorities on Saturday, leaving hundreds homeless in the winter chill. An infant allegedly died during the drive.

Appearing for Maken, advocate Aman Panwar sought court’s direction for authorities to “immediately carry out a survey and prepare a list of those affected/ displaced in the demolition drive”.

“Authorities have caused serious and irreparable injury of life and property to the residents of the slums/jhuggies without providing rehabilitation as required by law,” said Maken’s plea.